Rock ‘n’ roll comes in waves. It’s a cyclical beast. When Jimmy Page first burst onto the scene with the Yardbirds after spending time as a session musician, rock ‘n’ roll was barely beyond a crawl. But it was soon ambling towards a sprint and that frantic evolution called for new developments, thusly, the heavier style of Led Zeppelin came to the fore. With a dose of mythologised drama that even Robert Plant said sometimes verged on “pompous” their output heralded an orchestral age for rock.
With that development, the counterculture revolution of flowery rock turned towards a Tolkienesque chapter, and it’s been changing clothes ever since. As Alex Turner decreed in his BRITs speech/TedTalk: “That rock ‘n’ roll ay, it just won’t go away,” It was an Arctic Monkeys moment so cringeworthy it could snap a weak jaw, but it was at least as original, charming and cognisant as they have always been.
“It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp,” he continued in his affected Sheffield Sheriff drawl, before concluding, “It seems like it’s fading away sometimes, but it will never die.” And in Jimmy Page’s venerated opinion, it was Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys who helped to save the cool cat’s life for the thousandth time when he looked at the modern crop of rock bands.
Ahead of their 80,000 a-night weekend shows in Finsbury Park – a feat in itself in modern times for rock – Page heaped praise on the Sheffield scoundrels, commenting: “The Arctic Monkeys, right from their very inception, you could tell straight away that they really, really thought about it.”
This considered approach was notable in Turner’s snarling and slacked jawed sermon to streetlight life songwriting which has also been championed by poets like John Cooper Clarke, Simon Armitage, and Carol Ann Duffy who opined: “Arctic Monkeys write poems. They are great lyric writers.”
This opinion was shared by Page himself who stated: “Alex is superb, isn’t it he? They’ve really worked hard at it, and you could tell that straight away. They stood out a mile from everything else that was going on.” And much like Led Zeppelin that hard work continued to evolve beyond the Promethean stylings that they first offered up back in 2006 with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
As Page identified, without an ounce of snotty cynicism that has befallen other aged icons, “We’ve got some great talent over here. It’s always changing, that’s the thing, that’s how it is. It changes over a period of years and in five years it will make an incredible shift. There’s some really good intelligent writing going on over here in new musicians. That’s what we want, isn’t it?”
With plenty of new artists and songwriters like Katy J Pearson who has just graced us with a beauteous new record of the indie-folk variety this very morning, that notion has proved joyously true. Smashing stuff!